France’s Other Louis

vittonglassoutsidewebIt was Monday July 4th and we had to scrap our original loose plan of visiting Monet’s gardens in Giverny. We couldn’t make the very early departure needed because we had to work with the apartment agency to get our washing machine door handle fixed. Some vacation choices are as mundane as that.

Michael was keen to visit some galleries and present his work for potential representation, so after our ritual breakfast at Eric Keyser, he went that-a-way and the kids and I the other way to Luxembourg Gardens. You can’t go directly to any place in Paris for all the attractions tugging at you on every corner. The kids actually asked to go into the cool looking church nearby, St. Sulpice, which even with scaffolding all over it was nonetheless an awesome structure.

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Le Jardin du Luxembourgh: a pleasant place to plop yourself

Le Jardin du Luxembourg was the grounds of yet another queen’s palace, built in the early 1600’s. We weren’t interested in the palace, but just wanted to tool around the outside. Formal gardens with statue after statue after statue. Fittingly for the July 4th holiday, one of the statues was a casting of the life-size maquette of the Statue of Liberty. Straight realistic portraits and classical compositions are not my favorite style though, so even though we appreciated as much as we could, there were hordes of them and we gave up to mostly just walk. Many chairs and benches for people to sit and talk and eat and drink. Tennis courts (Freeman lambasted me for not bringing our racquets), a playground, endless rows of trees, and fountains. It was an easy-on-the-eyes-and-mind day, though not so easy on the feet. The kids got ice cream for lunch from a stand and we rested a bit, then toured the eastern half of le jardin.

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Ice cream for lunch
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Just another palace in Paris

We had arranged to meet up with Michael to go to a museum mid-afternoon and left a little early to get there. On our way to the subway station we were waylaid by some oversize nature photograph posters perfectly arranged on the fence around the garden. The photos were from a handful of places around the world, brilliant reproductions that make you go “ahhh”. They were seemingly endless and after an hour, we hurried along, but were again waylaid, this time by a candy stand (post ice cream lunch dessert, not a good parenting moment), then into the labyrinthian St. Michel station, where we embarked to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Avenue stop.

We joined Michael and took a shuttle to the western edge of the city to tour the Louis Vitton museum, formally known as the Foundation Louis Vitton. It was located inside the huge green patch we spotted from the Eiffel Tower while watching the sunset, not far from the skyscraper section, on Mahatma Gandhi Avenue. These street names were inspiring! The building was designed by Frank Gehry, whose architecture we adore, and who Michael actually had made a few small sculptures for. We were there for the building, having read the artwork inside was mostly meh.

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The any-superlative-you-want-to-pick Gehry building for the Foundation Louis Vitton

So we first walked around the front of the spectacular structure. It was like a huge ship, with cubist style glass sails for the decorative roof. At that time, a special exhibition “Daniel Buren, Observatory of Light, Work in Situ”, actually colored the normally plain but still magnificent “sails” with a collection of red, green, blue, yellow, pink and purple stained glass installments. Sometimes finding words to describe art, especially more modern work, is a challenge. So I’ll resort to awesome, unbelievable, nothing like it, spectacular… We also spotted a water feature at the base of the “hull” that was intriguing.

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Hard to fathom you could make the Gehry building even better, but Daniel Buren managed

I’ll say that this museum was the only place in Paris where we did not feel welcomed by the staff. It was a hassle to get in (a handful of people in line just buying tickets somehow turned into a minor production), the monitor scolded my daughter for taking the revolving door for a second spin around, the map was confusing, the signage sparse, and nothing directed you to lavatories or a coat room. People who worked there didn’t look like they wanted to answer your questions. We found the coatroom and restrooms on our own, thank you very much.

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More Zen than Versailles

We wanted to complete our tour of the architecture. There were many levels of outdoor patio areas and an interesting organic installation to see. The views up, down, and out were all special. The water feature, which wended its way around the hull, was subtle and complex at the same time. Rave, rave, rave!

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From one fantastic structure to another

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Layer upon layer: water reflecting the walls and glass with the sky visible and our reflections in between

Finally, we viewed the collections. A forty foot tall seated person with animal skins spread across the body. Large canvases with scenes created from from incense ash collected in Buddhist temples. A movie with different scenes shown on different screens all at once. Interesting, very good even, but perhaps overshadowed by the great Gehry art surrounding you. It might be better once you’ve been to the place a few times so your attention isn’t riveted to the building itself. We ended the visit at a light and mirror installation on the ground floor that I liked but no one else in the family found impressive.

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The photo can’t capture the triangular yellow lights with the reflection in the water and windows behind and the decreasing size of each pillar
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Mirrors were part of this but again, it’s challenging to show or describe
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Don’t take my picture and whatever you do, don’t put it on Facebook

We were among the last guests again and the exit led us into a most unusual park: fun exercise equipment all about, treehouses, moats and castle towers, a trampoline zone, and so on. Most of it was by then closed but we had a good time wandering through, hungry and tired as we were. It meant we’d missed the last shuttle but we made our way to the subway station nearby and hopped a train back to St. Michel.

That night, we ate at a creperie Trip Advisor rated as one of the top two in the city. It was near our apartment and had festive mosaic décor. Smashing! A wee problem was the menu was only in French, our little phrase book did not have most of the words we saw, there was no WiFi, data wasn’t working, and our waiter spoke en peu Ingles. We tortured him more than was reasonable then settled for some fairly basic crepes because we understood what the ingredients were. They were indeed delicious!

Despite our weary bones, we walked back so as to see the nightlife in the St. Germain region of the city and it was quite a treat of festive frolickery all about. When we finally returned to the apartment, we saw the washing machine door open; a repairperson had been called in and fixed it. Michael went out for another late night rent-a-bike ride while I laid out the clothes which would need to dry within a day and a half before we left the city. Leaving the city—yikes! No one ever wants to leave Paris…

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A dreamy river pic Michael took while riding a rental bike around midnight
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Nice night shot of Notre Dame – thanks iPhone!
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